New York

Right now at 52 Broadway, pressure to stand firmer on term limits

The teachers union will vote on its final stance on term limits this afternoon, at a meeting of the union’s delegate assembly that is beginning now. (“It’s standing room only!” my source at the meeting just said via cell phone.) The expectation is that the delegates will support the resolution passed last night by the executive board, which urged a voter referendum rather than Bloomberg’s proposed City Council route for changing term limits.

But new amendments could be added, and whatever debate occurs will likely turn on how strongly the UFT should oppose Bloomberg. The resolution passed last night does not state a position for or against term limits, and it does not challenge the mayor on any points; rather, it projects, as president Randi Weingarten’s first statement did, a sense of the seriousness of the economic crisis — and keeps open a door for supporting a third Bloomberg term through a referendum. The idea communicated last night, according to one source who was there, is not to spend too much “political capital” on fighting the mayor on term limits, when other fights (such as the budget) are around the corner.

Not everyone at the union wants to play this safe route. Among teachers, there is a lot of animosity toward the Bloomberg administration, especially among the veterans who are the most active in UFT politics, and some are voicing that. Today, an opposition group that often pushes Weingarten, the Independent Community of Educators, will push its own resolution, which would have the union cut off funding from City Council members who vote for changing term limits, a member of ICE’s steering committee, Jeff Kaufman, told me. (The union’s PAC, UFT COPE, gives thousands of dollars to Council members each cycle.)

So far Weingarten has tended to angry members by drawing a line between him and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein: Klein is the bad guy, and she agrees he’s bad; Bloomberg is okay. But it’s hard to imagine Bloomberg tossing Klein, so supporting Bloomberg will be very difficult for Weingarten.

We’ll keep you posted on how the union votes.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.